There’s been a lot of talk on this site about coming out as a gamer, embracing your inner geek, and subverting stereotypes. Lethea has had more than her share of issues with it. The thing is, I’ve never had to do that. I’ve always been a geek. I learned to read in a MUD called Dragon Realms – I used to sit with my father and watched him type while I ate breakfast. I knew the story and the characters and several of the players – my godfather, aunt and uncle played in addition to my dad. So for me, there was never a need to come out because it was something that was always there. I’m twenty four and I’ve never known anything but gaming.
It wasn’t until I got to college that I even realized that all of those jokes about gamers held water. I never played in basement with a black light, my group never looked funny in wizard hats and -here’s the big one- we were a group made up almost entirely of girls. We had one male player and our GM was a guy. The other five of us? Girls. And that never seemed odd to any of us; it was just our group of friends getting together to play a game, like Monopoly or Apples to Apples.
In college I joined another group, with two guys I sort of knew by association. It was a superhero game set in the Marvel universe and I was stoked but nervous. This would be the first group that I played without my usual group, and even though my GM would be joining me as a fellow player for a few sessions, it felt odd to know that the girls wouldn’t be there groaning over my botched rolls. I didn’t know this new GM very well, but we very famously didn’t get along and it wasn’t doing much to help with my anxiety. My fellow player assured me that we would change our minds once we spent more time together, and he even tried to help ease my anxiousness by taking me to get some dice. (Because hey, I love dice. It’s a sickness.) He took me to his local shop and it was the first time I really understood all those basement jokes. It was small and cramped and there was so much dust I could barely read the titles. The guys running a Warhammer game in the back actually stopped and stared.
“This is Keavy,” he introduced me, all smiles, “She’s joining our Marvel game.”
“Oh how nice for you,” the Shop Keeper said with a sort of awkward smile. Then he turned back to my buddy and asked what kind of character I was playing.
It was unreal for me. I had spent my entire life frequenting the same store. I knew the owners and had talked to them on several occasions about dice and feats and comics. I knew their kids and when they got their inventory trucks. In all the years I had been going to my store I’d never felt so out of place. We were there for close to an hour and the whole time the guys in the back did nothing but murmur quietly.
I only got one explanation: “You’re a girl.”
I still don’t get that. I’ve been playing games on my own since Ultima Online and I’ve been playing with my dad in Dragon Realms since ’96. I even played Meridian59. I don’t speak Japanese and I don’t cosplay – and I certainly do not play in my underwear. Why should I? The guys don’t. Admittedly, I love purple dice, but who doesn’t? So I’ve been wondering, what the hell is a “girl gamer”?
This is a hot button issue across the nerd spectrum, from tabletopping to MMOs to console games, especially among women. I don’t do console games, mostly because I suck and I don’t want to get schooled by some punk twelve year old. But I’m pretty good with MMOs and I have a lot of friends there. I’ve Beta’d most of the major MMOs since Ever Quest. I’ve been bad at some, I flat out didn’t enjoy others and some I still play pretty regularly. I’m waiting for the new Diablo just like everyone else. I waited in line with the guys for the midnight premiere of some of the Marvel movies.
How is that any different than the guys who are playing Call of Duty? Or waiting anxiously for the new DLC for whatever game it is that they’re playing. Or arguing who the better Green Lantern was? I’ve got news for you guys – we have those arguments too.
This is not to say I hate playing with guys – they’re warm and cuddly and sometimes their hair smells nice. They’re great for carrying around the game stuff, like figs and books. With girls, we just giggle a lot and tend to be more laid back about the game. When the guys start giggling it usually means they’re up to something–probably a crazy battle plan that makes me worry about the safety of my character.
I’m still in that Champions game – and having an awesome time. We’ve shuffled through a couple of other girls in our lineup, but my guys are the mainstay. It’s odd – I wouldn’t have expected to be so protective of them, but some of us have been playing this game together since ’07. In a lot of ways, this is the game I grew up in. It was the first system I played that wasn’t D20. It was my first game as an adult, independent of my dad and my uncle. It was first tabletop I played where I had to explore who I was and what it meant for me to game.
So guys – the next time you’re in your comic shop and you see a girl looking at some books, don’t assume she’s there because her boyfriend made her come along. Go up to her. Say ‘hi.’ Ask what she’s looking at. She’ll be grateful that you’re not being one of ‘those guys.’ Who knows? Maybe she does want to hear about your 15th level Paladin. She might even have a feat suggestion.
- How Old Were You When You First Started Gaming?
- Tabletops and MMOs: Match made in heaven or hell?
- Have You Ever Used Your Neighborhood as a Game Setting?
Keavy has been gaming since she was a toddler. She learned to read sitting on her fathers lap as he played the Dragon Realms MUD. Yep, she had absolutely no chance. Keavy is currently studying for her degree in Anthropology and in her free time she enjoys hugging Koalas. Who doesn't?